On a chilly, rainy Saturday morning (6:30AM to be exact) most Goannas in Japan were snoozing away snugly underneath doonas for the first time since the summer ended. 10 battle hardened lizards however defied weekend tradition and swung the playing kit over their scaly shoulders and trundled off on bus and car to the outskirts of Japan. Somewhere past Narita in the lush forests where the rain followed with little respite.
So the Japan Cup begins.
A round robin tournament featuring 6 teams- the Box Hill North Demons straight from Melbourne, four strong Japanese sides, and of course, us.
The first game saw the Goannas play a team combined with Hawks and Lions players. Now, if you remember, the Lions were the team who handed us our first ever 100 point spanking just two weeks prior. Now bolstered by the Hawks, the Goannas tried a different pre-game warm-up to be sure humiliation would not come again.
A healthy dose of Deep Heat supplied by Simon ‘Deep Heat’ Gray.
The trusty ointment warmed up shivering muscles and all was raring to go.
I won’t bore you with details but the first game was a huge improvement on recent outings. The Goannas went down by 4 goals but was never too far behind mainly due to a back line that repelled attack after attack. Grant Wales, James Correy (in his first ever game of AFL), and Dirk van Dalen are young and new but they showed glimpses of what Goanna fans can expect in the future. A hard, dour, no-nonsense back line that just loves to smother and hit tackles hard.
Despite in the front seat for the Golden Boot, Luke Eyes planted himself in the midfield where he was needed the most. Unselfish. If Sam Mitchell and Greg Williams had babies then the product would probably be our Lukey. The extractor made sure there were no clear centre breaks and a good ol’ scrap would be had. That suited us fine as Mikey Liddell and Travis ‘Arms’ Wilson capitalised on whatever fell their way up forward. No behinds were kicked…all day.
Yes ladies and gentlemen we didn’t kick a behind all day. That’s 3 games without a miss. To be sure, we didn’t score the most goals in the world, but that’s beside the point.
The second game rolled around and it was another tough one – the undefeated Tokyo Bay Suns who sit atop the JAFL ladder. Words won’t be minced here. We were, well, not very good at all this time around. Going down by 51 points, our final score was 0.0.
Dropped marks, missed kicks, and lazy tackling made sure the boys had a bit to think about during the ensuing lunch break. Throw in the persistent rain, wet socks, and strengthening wind, the Goannas could only look at our potato sandwiches for solace.
Too cold to get up and warm up for the next game, the lads finished off the Deep Heat instead and watched as the cheerleaders on show gyrated and danced to some popular tunes. That must have touched a nerve as the fire came back just in time for the final match. The battle for 5th spot against Senshu Powers (currently 3rd on the JAFL ladder).
Perhaps it was the pom poms, maybe the unique dance moves, or it could have been too much Deep Heat kicking in, but the Goannas were inspired.
OK we didn’t win but you should have seen Stefan Aebi gut run despite having no tank left. His effort in the ruck meant Alex Wyatt had a go up forward and destroyed his opponent with 3 crucial goals. Wyatt has enjoyed a break out season in the ruck with his behemoth sized frame and showed us he hasn’t lost any of that goal kicking touch.
Roving the packs, unperturbed with kicking off his modeling career last week, Dan Last threw himself head first into packs with reckless abandon as he and Luke paired up in the middle. That brought Dirk, Mikey and Arms into the frame as well. Truly a team effort.
For most of the game the Goannas were only a goal down until the last few minutes when Senshu kicked two goals to seal it. Although the result was heartbreaking the boys went off the field together buoyed. It was a morale-lifting effort and it sent out an affirmation that there is light at the end of the tunnel if the players stick together. Not in a Melbourne Demons type of way, more like a Port Adelaide (from last year – hopefully).
To all the fans out there, these ten Goannas showed why we are deserving of your support despite some horrible losses this year. Growing pains but these Goannas will taste success again sooner rather than later. There is hunger there!
Special mention goes out to Richard Binnie and David Ogilvy who came out to support with voice and water. Binnie somehow managed to hydrate 3 players at once, and Oges was never far behind instructing players on whose bum they should be patting.
All in all a fantastic day capped off with a brilliant Boat Race victory over the Box Hill North boys. With one game left in the regular season get around us all you Goannas. We’ll be good things very soon!
We’ll finish off by congratulating the combined Hawks and Lions team who took it out. Well played and we’ll get you next time!